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Balancing buzz, expectations surrounding Ravens' Maxx Williams

Tight end Maxx Williams should be available to play in the Ravens' season opener at Denver. AP Photo/Gail Burton

The buzz surrounding 2015 second-round pick Maxx Williams continues as the Baltimore Ravens tight end was named to Mel Kiper Jr.'s projected 2015 all-rookie teamInsider.

Williams, the first tight end selected in the draft, very likely will be the top rookie at his position, and he'll help fill the void left by Owen Daniels going to the Denver Broncos in free agency and Dennis Pitta remaining on the physically unable to perform list. He has great hands and has a knack for making plays (see the fourth down-and-20 conversion in the preseason opener).

History, though, says expectations should be tempered. This isn't just for Williams, but for all of the rookie tight ends, including Clive Walford (Raiders), Tyler Kroft (Bengals), Blake Bell (49ers) and MyCole Pruitt (Vikings).

In the last 10 seasons, there were just three rookie tight ends who caught more than 50 passes in their first season: John Carlson (2008), Jermaine Gresham (2010) and Tim Wright (2013). There were seven with over 500 yards receiving and eight with over four touchdown catches.

So, what should be the realistic goals for Williams? Based on the track record of rookie tight ends, 40 catches and 400 yards would be a very solid season.

While rookie wide receivers have been making more of an immediate impact recently, tight ends have been slower to develop in the NFL. They're being asked to block like an offensive lineman and run routes like a wide receiver.

The Ravens would be ecstatic if Williams made a bigger impact from the start. Baltimore traded second- and fifth-round picks to Arizona to move up in the second round to take Williams.

Still, the physicality of the NFL is going to be the biggest hurdle for Williams. He just turned 21 in April -- he's the youngest player on the Ravens by seven months -- and he'll likely need a full year in the Ravens' offseason conditioning program to get his body ready for the rigors of the league.

Williams has missed time this offseason because of a tweaked hamstring, an eye injury and a heat-related issue. He's currently been wearing a red, non-contact red jersey in practice, but coach John Harbaugh said it's precautionary and he expects Williams to be ready for the regular-season opener in Denver.

The Ravens haven't relied much on rookie tight ends throughout their history. Since 2001, only six rookie tight ends have even caught a pass for Baltimore.

Todd Heap, who caught the most passes by a tight end in franchise history, had a modest 16 receptions for 206 yards and one touchdown as a rookie. He was the understudy to Shannon Sharpe in 2001.

This will probably be a similar role for Williams. Even though Williams is the most natural pass-catcher among the Ravens' tight ends, Crockett Gillmore will be the starter because he's the most complete tight end.

But, given Pitta's uncertain future, Williams should develop into one of Joe Flacco's top targets for many years to come.